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Full Version: The Army of Palmyra
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Hey!

I was wondering if anybody could help me. I am trying to write a paper about Palmyra, and I'm looking for information on its army. Especially how the soldiers were organized, what kind of units they were organized into, and what kinds of weapons and armor they used. Were any of them using the same equipment as Roman soldiers? Did some of them come from Roman units?

Thanks in advance!!!! :mrgreen:
I used to have a really good link but I can't find it. Sad I am still looking but I remember coming across it by accident. I have been interested in this for awhile myself.
I wrote a paper last week on Rome's military and I found some good stuff from Zosimus in Historia Nova on Palmyra. One line from memory, labels the Palmyrene cavalry as far superior to the Roman infantry however I did not read much further into this. The text is available free online
Thanx so much for your replies! Big Grin

So were Palmyran cavalry catafracts, like the cavalry of the Parthians before them? Or were they something else? :?
Odenathus, Zenobia's husband, was commander of the Roman forces in the east (according to Zosimus he 'joined to the remainder of an army that still remained in the country many of his own troops'), and it's possible that after his death some of them might have remained in Zenobia's Palmyrene army.

The Historia Augusta, however, states that the Temple of the Sun at Palmyra was 'pillaged by the eagle-bearers of the Third Legion, along with the standard-bearers, the dragon-bearer, the buglers and trumpeters...' (H.A Aurelianus, 31.7) This was following the final sack of the city. The Third Legion are almost certainly III Gallica, which had been stationed in Syria for about two centuries by this point, and would have been one of legions under the command of Odenathus. By this point, however, they were clearly fighting for Aurelian! So it seems like at least part, and maybe all, of the Roman garrison in the east remained loyal to Rome after Zenobia's accession.

Zosimus (Historia Nova) describes the army that Zabdas leads against Egypt as comprising 'Palmyrenians, Syrians, and Barbarians, to the number of seventy thousand', and later Zenobia's force consists of 'Palmyrenes and their allies'. So we can imagine a pretty mixed bunch. The Historia Augusta describes 'squadrons of Saracens and Armenians' (probably light cavalry) being bribed by Aurelian to change sides - these might have been some of the 'barbarians' Zosimus mentioned.

The battle descriptions in Zosimus provide a bit more information on the 'vigorous cavalry of the Palmyrenians': they 'placed great confidence in their armour, which was very strong and secure', and 'they were much better horsemen' than the Romans. Because of this, Aurelian orders his own cavalry to make a feigned retreat, drawing Zenobia's horsemen into a long pursuit 'until they had wearied both the men and their horses through excess of heat and the weight of their armour'. Later, in the battle of Emesa, Palestinian clubman are sent against the disordered Palmyrene cavalry, using 'clubs and staves against coats of mail made of iron and brass'. (H.A. Book I. 25-27). The impression given is that the Palmyrene cavalry were more heavily armoured then the Romans, and attacked at a charge ('vigorously') and in formation - this would suggest cataphracts or clibanarii.

All the quotes above are from these online sources:

Zosimus, Historia Nova

Historia Augusta, Divus Aurelianus

- Nathan
^^ A very informative post, thanx a million!

I hadn't realized that the Palmyrene army was so diverse in origins, with the Armenians and all. The Palestinian clubmen surprise me though - seems like a pretty unrefined way to fight :|
Also from Zosimus Historia Nova above,

"[Emperor Aurelianus]But observing that the Palmyrene cavalry placed great confidence in their armour, which was very strong and secure, and that they were much better horsemen than his soldiers"

That was the quote I was talking about (and used in my own paper)
Quote:^^ A very informative post, thanx a million!

I hadn't realized that the Palmyrene army was so diverse in origins, with the Armenians and all. The Palestinian clubmen surprise me though - seems like a pretty unrefined way to fight :|

But a tactic used later by Constantine, in a civil war, and Constantius II, against the Persians, to counter catafract/clibanarii type cavalry. Not dissimilar to the use of entrenching tools against, IIRC, crupellarii in 1st century civil wars.

BTW the bit in Zosimus about the clubs is:

"... he choicest of the imperial regiment selected man by man, the Mauritanian horse, the Tyaneans, the Mesopotamians, the Syrians, the Phoenicians, and the Palestinians, all men of acknowledged valour; the Palestinians besides other arms wielding clubs and staves"

which makes it clear that the club armed troops were normal Roman soldiers, albeit, picked men.